You are currently viewing archive for October 2007
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
The Telegraph (UK) now has its list of most influential conservatives and liberals in the U.S. extended from 21-100. For critiques on some of the rankings 61-11 see comments under the earlier post.

Although the rankings are a bit odd in spots, the brief descriptions of the people provide a good resource.
It cannot be too often repeated that what destroyed the Family in the modern world was Capitalism." G.K. Chesterton in "Three Foes of the Family" found in the collection of his essays The Well and the Shallows.

This statement should be approached by a modern American thinker in the same way one drives to the top of Pike's Peak: gradually in sprirals, ever higher around the mountain. In my first post on this quotation, I gave a brief introduction to Chesterton the man. Today I want to introduce briefly his political/social thought. I'll begin with some quotations from his writings.

First, from the Father Brown story "The Crime of the Communist" Father Brown speaking:

. . . I told you that heresies and false doctrines had become common and conversational; that everybody was used to them; that nobody really noticed them. Did you think I meant Communism when I said that? Why, it was just the other way. You were all as nervous as cats about Communism; and you watched Craken like a wolf. Of course, Communism is a heresy; but it isn't a heresy that you people take for granted. It is Capitalism you take for granted; or rather the vices of Capitalism disguised as a dead Darwinism. Do you recall what you were all saying in the Common Room, about life being only a scramble, and nature demanding the survival of the fittest, and how it doesn't matter whether the poor are paid justly or not? Why that is the heresy that you have grown accustomed to, my friends; and its every bit as much a heresy as Communism. That's the anti-Christian morality or immorality that you take quite naturally. . . . (more below)

» Read More

Category: Courts
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Blackstone's Formulation:

better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer

Even in what many seem to consider a "Bush-controlled, neo-fascist America," we are blessed with a remarkable justice system.

As we speak, the case of Ali al-Marri weaves its way through the American legal process, addressing some of the most crucial issues inherent within the war on terror. The Bush administration currently holds non-citizen (but legal resident), Al-Marri, in military custody as a suspected enemy combatant. According to the executive, Al-Marri's alleged ties to al-Qaida make him a threat to national security.

Today the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia hears arguments on whether Al-Marri should be charged or released from federal confinement. In June, a three-judge panel of the court ruled 2-1 that even under the Military Commissions Act, legislation passed in 2006 to establish military trials, Ali al-Marri retains the right to trial. The government sees it differently and asked for the rehearing, and a ruling is expected in several weeks.

No matter which way the circuit court rules on this case, it is a near certainty that the Supreme Court will eventually rule on the constitutionality of the Military Commissions Act, which will ultimately determine the fate of al-Marri.

The wheels of American justice are turning.

Over at the Supreme Court yesterday, at least five justices agreed to stay the impending execution of Earl W. Berry, who, over the course of nineteen years, had exhausted all his appeals and was on death row in Mississippi and awaiting execution that very evening.

Ironically, Berry, who had brutally beaten to death a 56-year-old woman whom he had kidnapped as she was walking home from choir practice in 1988, argued most recently that Mississippi's system for execution, death by lethal injection, was cruel and unusual punishment.

This case also is part of a larger web of impending cases linked to a future Court decision; in this instance, the issue is the constitutionality of lethal injection.

The wheels of American justice are turning.
Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose,
freedom aint worth nothing--but it's free

Kris Kristofferson

From the Washington Post:

"[I]n Los Angeles earlier this month, [John K.] Tanner [voting section chief within the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ] said that voter identification laws primarily affect elderly people because they are less likely to have photo IDs, and that such laws are less likely to affect minorities because they tend to die earlier. A few days earlier, Tanner also suggested to the Georgia NAACP that poor people are likely to have photo IDs because check-cashing businesses require them."

Article in full here.

The problem for John Tanner, a thirty-one-year veteran of the Justice Department, is that he has a whole lot to lose. If he was not aware before yesterday, he must be painfully cognizant now, his freedom of speech is limited by the complicated web of racial politics, Washington double-speak, and political correctness that makes up the current climate of American democratic governance.

Tuesday, Tanner spent an afternoon on Capitol Hill apologizing.

The serially inappropriate Dana Milbank observes:

"There is nothing quite so abject, profuse and groveling as an apology offered by a man who fears he is about to lose his job. But even Tanner's ritualistic self-abasement did not put Democrats on the subcommittee in a forgiving mood."

Column in full here.

Congressman Artur Davis (Democrat from Alabama): "You engaged in analysis without knowing the numbers. If you are basing your conclusions on stereotypes rather than facts, then it suggests to some of us that someone else can do this job better than you can."

Congressman Bobby Scott (Democrat from Virginia) called Tanner's statement "bizarre."

Bizarre? Really? Stereotypes rather than facts? What are the real facts here? Perhaps these nuggets of conventional wisdom are absolutely false--but I have heard them for years, usually to prove the existence of systemic racism in America.

Minorities are just as healthy as whites and enjoy similar life expectancies? This is good news. It certainly makes nationalized healthcare less urgent.

As for the check-cashing, is the stereotype that poor people don't use banks or that minorities are more often poor? Either way, again, these are both articles of faith I first heard years ago in my sociology and political science courses, designed to enlighten, educate and broaden my understanding of the “oppressed classes.”

I welcome an honest conversation regarding the DOJ and its track record for protecting voting rights in America. However, when the discussion must necessarily begin with a near-tearful, slobbering apology on the part of the "white guy in charge of looking out for the rights of minorities," at the feet of a Democratically controlled congressional panel intent on embarrassing the current administration and scoring political points, my expectations for something productive emanating from this spectacle are pretty low.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion. Roadside messages.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
The Telegraph (UK) is compiling an excellent resource for the election year: a ranked list of top liberal and conservative figures. Also, a page of quick information on the presidential campaign. The list is not yet complete, but now has numbers 61-100 on both sides.
Tom Spaulding has this tribute to Porter Wagoner on his site.

Bio from

From Youtube:

I'll Fly Away Porter with the Willis Brothers

Julie Porter from his show

And, from near the end, Albert Erving Porter with Marty Stuart and his band on the Letterman show

Oops, almost forgot, can't do without a Porter and Dolly
an extended clip that includes Dolly's first appearance on the Porter Wagoner Show

Farmer, you're the real Country Music expert, why not add a few words to this post.
From the White House website:

"President George W. Bush today announced recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Nation's highest civil award.

"Established by Executive Order 11085 in 1963, the Medal may be awarded by the President "to any person who has made an especially meritorious contribution to (1) the security or national interests of the United States, or (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

"President Bush will honor these recipients at a White House ceremony on Monday, November 5, 2007:

"Gary S. Becker....

"Oscar Elias Biscet....

"Francis S. Collins....

"Benjamin L. Hooks....

"Henry J. Hyde....

"Brian P. Lamb has elevated America's public debate and helped open up our government to citizens across the Nation. His dedication to a transparent political system and the free flow of ideas has enriched and strengthened our democracy.

"Harper Lee has made an outstanding contribution to America's literary tradition. At a critical moment in our history, her beautiful book, To Kill a Mockingbird, helped focus the Nation on the turbulent struggle for equality.

"Ellen Johnson Sirleaf...."

In re Brian Lamb: a well deserved honor for a great American hero.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
In a previous post I contrasted the Democratic and Republican parties in terms of their core values. I summarized the Democrats in this way:

"When it comes to Domestic Policy, the core value of the Democratic Party is simple to state, simple to understand, and has predictible policy implications. In a nutshell, the Democratic Party core value is: The Federal Government Is Responsible for the Well-Being of American Citizens.

Some corollaries: the Federal Government is responsible for maintaining a good economy so that citizens have jobs and income; for those citizens who are not prospering economically it is the Federal government's responsibility to provide for their needs; since a college education is seen as a ticket to greater well-being, the Federal Government will provide financing to institutions and to students (student loans); good health is essential to well-being so the Federal Government will ensure that everyone has insurance, or, provide affordable health-care, and to prevent citizens from damaging their own health, will take steps to discourage smoking and obesity; et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

The Democrats have had this core value for Domestic Policy since FDR's New Deal, policies to implement this value are in place (e.g. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, funding for the Interstate Highway System), and while taxpayers may complain the same taxpayers will not give up the fruits of this core value such as Federal money for large lakes, highway bridges, guaranteed student loans, or Social Security."

I am not a Democrat, in large part, because I think this core value is dangerous to the well-being of American society. (more below)

» Read More

From the Concord Monitor:

"John Edwards says if he's elected president, he'll institute a New Deal-like suite of programs to fight poverty and stem growing wealth disparity. To do it, he said, he'll ask many Americans to make sacrifices, like paying higher taxes."

More Edwards as reported in the Monitor:

"...the federal government should underwrite universal pre-kindergarten, create matching savings accounts for low-income people, mandate a minimum wage of $9.50 and provide a million new Section 8 housing vouchers for the poor. He also pledged to start a government-funded public higher education program called College for Everyone."

Full article here.

Although the candidate conjures the image of FDR, as I have noted before, John Edwards is much more reminiscent of Huey P. Long, the "radical egalitarian" governor of Louisiana during the 1930s.

Emerging as a national figure with presidential aspirations during the Great Depression, the "Kingfish" promised to "Share the Wealth" and make "every man a king" by confiscating the large personal fortunes amassed in America through exploitation and unfair advantages of birth and redistributing them to the people.

Long promised reduced working hours, comfortable minimum salaries, and college for everyone.

My suggestion for the Edwards Campaign Theme Song:

Why weep or slumber America
Land of brave and true
With castles and clothing and food for all
All belongs to you.

Ev'ry man a king, ev'ry man a king,
For you can be a millionaire.
But there's something belonging to others
There's enough for all people to share.
When it's sunny June and December too
Or in the winter time or spring
There'll be peace without end
Ev'ry neighbor a friend,
With ev'ry man a king.
Last week, Tocqueville directed me to two prominent articles from conservative outlets intensely critical of former governor of Arkansas and candidate for the Republican nomination for president, Mike Huckabee:

"A Tale of Two Candidates," by Quin Hillyer, from 10/24 via the American Spectator (article here)and "Another Man from Hope: Who is Mike Huckabee?" by John Fund. from today (10-26) via the Wall Street Journal (article here).

What are they saying?

Both pundits seem to worry that New York Times columnists and other mainstream liberal media types find Huckabee too easy to praise. Granted, that can be a troublesome sign. However, we (conservatives) can be too sensitive about this sort of thing. It can be self-defeating to discard every candidate who appeals to people outside our selective circle.

What else?

John Fund, who claims personal knowledge gained over the years as a friend of Mike, voices grave doubts as to the candidate's conservative authenticity. Fund notes that the Eagle Forum (on the conservative end of conservatism) claims Huckabee is a charming moderate but predicts his brand of glib evangelical conservatism is fraught with many of the same flaws as Bush-43-ism. Others fear Huckabee is soft on taxes, soft on Democrats, and soft-headed on environmental issues.

An aside: conflating internal Baptist politics with the larger question of fidelity to the conservative movement, Fund offers Huckabee's decision to bolt the Southern Baptist Convention during the 1980s as evidence of his lack of conviction and steadfastness as a political conservative. The internal Baptist fights do not equate with the struggles inside the political movement. In short, there are good people on both sides of the Baptist divide, and they almost always say horrible things about their erstwhile churchmen.

Quin Hilyer focuses on the personal, describing Huckabee as self-serving and:

"a guy with thin skin, a nasty vindictive streak, and a long history of imbroglios about questionable ethics."

Hilyer emphasizes the purportedly undemanding public morality of the candidate and his, evidently, politically awkward wife.

What does all this mean?

Tocqueville suggested last week: "Huckabee's rising above 10 percent in the polls has been taken by some as a signal to begin to focus on him." But he added: "I think that his support may prove temporary, because some of his views, immigration especially, won't stand up to much inspection."

We'll see. Huckabee is definitely in play right now. This is his moment. A whole avalanche of stories arrived this morning including an NPR feature and a new Rasmussen poll (the gold standard for Republicans), which shows Huckabee edging up ahead of Romney for a share of third place.

My take: No predictions. I am keeping my powder dry for now. As many of you know, I have been interested in Huckabee for some time. I was not sure if he would get an opportunity to compete—but here it is. Realistically, no candidate for the presidency can ask for more than that.

A back story in all this (with all due respect to Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol) is the continuing dissatisfaction among GOP faithful with the top-tier candidates. When, how, and where will we find someone with whom we can feel comfortable?

One other thing to watch: if Huckabee emerges as a prime candidate, the looming struggle within the conservative movement between evangelicals, Burkean-Kirk-ites, and libertarians may play out in a spectacular and bloody battle. If it has to come (and it probably does), 2008 might offer the least-damaging moment.

To Huckabee or not to Huckabee? That may be the question (at least for the next few weeks).
Category: Frivolity
Posted by: an okie gardener
I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the story. But it is funny. From a comment on Red Nation Society.
"It cannot be too often repeated that what destroyed the Family in the modern world was Capitalism." G.K. Chesterton in "Three Foes of the Family" found in the collection of his essays The Well and the Shallows.

Chesterton was much too brilliant a thinker and a writer to dismiss anything he says. I want to do a few posts in reflection on that quotation. But first, some background.

G.K. Chesterton wrote widely and prolifically, amounting to about 100 volumes. I copy this brief biography from this website on Chesterton.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born in London, England on the 29th of May, 1874. Though he considered himself a mere "rollicking journalist," he was actually a prolific and gifted writer in virtually every area of literature. A man of strong opinions and enormously talented at defending them, his exuberant personality nevertheless allowed him to maintain warm friendships with people--such as George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells--with whom he vehemently disagreed.

Chesterton had no difficulty standing up for what he believed. He was one of the few journalists to oppose the Boer War. His 1922
Eugenics and Other Evils attacked what was at that time the most progressive of all ideas, the idea that the human race could and should breed a superior version of itself. In the Nazi experience, history demonstrated the wisdom of his once "reactionary" views.

His poetry runs the gamut from the comic
"The Logical Vegetarian" to dark and serious ballads. During the dark days of 1940, when Britain stood virtually alone against the armed might of Nazi Germany, these lines from his 1911 Ballad of the White Horse were often quoted:

I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.

Though not written for a scholarly audience, his biographies of authors and historical figures like Charles Dickens and St. Francis of Assisi often contain brilliant insights into their subjects. His "Father Brown" mystery stories, written between 1911 and 1936, are still being read and adapted for television.
His politics fitted with his deep distrust of concentrated wealth and power of any sort. Along with his friend Hilaire Belloc and in books like the 1910
What's Wrong with the World he advocated a view called "Distributism" that is best summed up by his expression that every man ought to be allowed to own "three acres and a cow." Though not known as a political thinker, his political influence has circled the world. Some see in him the father of the "small is beautiful" movement and a newspaper article by him is credited with provoking Gandhi to seek a "genuine" nationalism for India. Orthodoxy belongs to yet another area of literature at which Chesterton excelled. A fun-loving and gregarious man, he was nevertheless troubled in his adolescence by thoughts of suicide. In Christianity he found the answers to the dilemmas and paradoxes he saw in life. Other books in that same series include his 1905 Heretics and its sequel Orthodoxy and his 1925 The Everlasting Man.

Chesterton died on the 14th of June, 1936 in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. During his life he published 69 books and at least another ten have been published after his death. Many of those books are still in print.

Next time, Chesterton's political theory.

This link is to the American Chesterton Society

This is a link to the website of a magazine dedicated to his thought and writings.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
As I have pointed out before, baseball reflects an agrarian America, the rhythm of the seasons and farming, the pace of work with human muscle and horses, and the dominant role of weather. Baseball also reflects pre-industrial labor in a village setting: cooperative specialization--pitcher, catcher, infielders, outfielders / cooper, blacksmith, carpenter, preacher--universal skills and tasks--caring for and using animals, working the soil/batting, catching, throwing. The social actions of village life are also reflected in the teamwork of baseball: working together cooperatively, but separately in responsibilities and often in distance.

No other American sport has the consistent distance between players on the same team that baseball has, but each must cooperate with the others to succeed. When the ball is pitched, no one can throw it but the pitcher or catch it but the catcher, if the ball is hit to right field there is only one person who can catch it; at the plate, all the responsibility is shouldered by the hitter, one player at a time, but his approach to that at bat is determined by whether there are men on base and where. Teamwork and individual responsibility. Farmers and craftsmen and merchants mutually dependent, farmers cooperating in labor for threshing and barn-raising, but each responsible for the success of his own family on his farm or in his shop.

I'll develop reflections on the other sports at a later date, but for now let me point out that football and basketball are industrial-age sports both in time of origin and in the nature of the games. Both are structured by mechanical clocks, have a fast pace reflecting industrial labor, and team members play in relatively close proximity most of the time. Labor is more specialized, especially in football, but even in basketball centers do not bring the ball up the court nor do guards usually post up. Weather does not determine if a game will be played or not. Both sports run counter to seasonal progression in nature, beginning their seasons when the cycle of sowing, growth, and harvest is ending; football ends its season in late winter/very early spring, basketball in spring. And while football does require a field and grass, basketball separates itself from nature completely.

Perhaps I love baseball because in my heart of hearts I'm a nineteenth-century kind of guy.
I missed it. Wednesday was United Nations Day in the U.S. Had I noticed in time I might have observed it. By flying the flag of the United States.

Why is the U.N. granted some sort of moral legitimacy by so many? Because, Okie, it's a world council of nations. How many of those nations have legitimate governments? What do you mean? According to one of our nation's founding documents, the Declaration of Independence, a government is legitimate if it has the consent of the governed, and remains legitimate so long as it safeguards the God-given rights of the people. So, I ask again, how many of the governments making up the United Nations are legitimate governments?

Well, well, you narrow-minded pretentious blogger, who are you to impose your standards on other people? Do you think that you have rights, such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that your government cannot take away arbitrarily? Why, yes. What is your point? Are you the only one in the world with such rights? I see where you are going with this, you are trying to get me to admit there is a universal truth that applies to everyone regardless of culture. You are trying to make me blaspheme Political Correctness and the Moral Relativism that underlies it. You are trying to trap me with patriarchal, Euro-centric logic. Yeah, yeah. So, are you the only one in the world with basic rights or does everyone have basic rights? . . .

Shouldn't we grant moral authority to a body that is made up of delegates from all over the world? Wouldn't the decisions of that body have a moral superiority to the decisions of only one nation? Why? If all the people in my small town gather and vote to burn a small boy at the stake just for the fun of it, should I recognize their moral superiority over any opposing view, say that held by the small boy, and treat their decision as sacrosanct because the town meeting included all the people of the town? What? I see you are a journalism major, so I'll try to explain again. If the majority of nations in the U.N. vote to execute homosexuals, bar women from the workplace, abolish every environmental regulation, and end all aid to the poor, would you comply with their decision? Of course not. Why not, if you grant them moral authority? Because those would be bad decisions. So, the United Nations is not necessarily better than one nation doing the right thing? Wait a minute, you are trying to trick me again.
I'm about to go all Andy Rooney on you, so either indulge me or scroll to the next post.

Baseball is a game tied to the seasons and to the rhythmns of an earllier agricultural America. See this earlier post. It begins in the spring, the time of planting crops, greening grass, budding trees, lengthening days, warming afternoons. Each season matures during the heat of summer with a season as long and slow and meandering as a great river under a dog day sun. Then comes fall, with its shortening days, cooler nights, and harvests.

Greed for television revenue is debasing the game. The regular season now lasts longer than in the past, and the additional layer of playoff games postpones the World Series 3 to 4 weeks later than it was a few decades ago. The extended season, combined with World Series night games (again, for the television revenue) means that these pinnacle games, the result of all the games in all the parks since opening day, often take place in cold and wet conditions. Blasphemous. Unnatural. The National Sport ruined by unbridled capitalism.

Shorten the season. Rethink the extra playoff games. (I mean, what's a Wild Card doing in baseball? For years it was the only professional sport where winning the regular season meant everything to advancement into the post-season.) AND GIVE US DAY GAMES IN THE WORLD SERIES. Baseball is a better radio game anyway.
Today the Administration made sure the nation saw that it was working hard to respond well to the fires in California. Well-publicized people on site, a cabinet meeting linked to the scene, statements to the press. I have no doubt FEMA will do a good job doing what it does. This Republican administration knows that the criticisms it took after Katrina hit New Orleans hurt it, and that a perception that Bush failed California would hurt the Republican nominee in 08.

Two points:

First, the criticism of the Federal response to Katrina has been unfair. Compare Mississippi and Louisiana. Same hurricane. Same FEMA. Things went much better in Mississippi. And also in Florida in the aftermath of their hurricane. The difference: the Democratic governments of New Orleans and of Louisiana. Can you say "Corrupt and Incompetent"? I can believe that the state of California will handle their end of the affair much better than Louisiana. I think the Administration will do well by them. We'll know by the lack of stories on failure in the MSM.

Second, everybody seems to be expecting the Feds to come to the rescue. I have heard no questions at all raised as to whether the fires and subsequent damage are actually within the responsibilities of the Federal Government. State and local governments, and the public, automatically turn to Washington. Is this a good thing?
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Cross-posted on Political Grind.

Charles Krauthammer, the clinically trained psychiatrist turned conservative columnist, whimsically announced a new mental disorder back in 2003: "Bush Derangement Syndrome." Krauthammer defined the condition as "the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency—nay—the very existence of George W. Bush" (read the original Post column here).

Consider this recent example of BDS:

"I am writing because we have an emergency."

"There are ten steps that are taken in order to close down a democracy or crush a pro-democratic movement, whether by capitalists, communists, or right-wing fascists. These ten steps, together, are more than the sum of their parts. Once all ten have been put in place, each magnifies the power of the others and of the whole."

"Impossible as it may seem, we are seeing each of these ten steps taking hold in the United States today."

So writes Naomi Wolf in End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, which reveals that the Bush administration is using the events of 9-11 to destroy democracy in America and institute a fascist police state. Most alarming, in her view, the Bush conspirators are not patiently sowing the seeds of a future or incremental conservative coup; Wolf expects a major crackdown on dissent (like locking people up in gulags) within the year.

What of Naomi Wolf and her call to arms?

» Read More

Muslims continue to riot in the Netherlands. Now also in Brussels. Story.

Take one large unassimilated immigrant group. Add a religion that teaches its followers that they are superior to infidels and destined to rule the world. Place in a dish that has no confidence in its own value, and is crippled by political correctness.

Night is falling over Europe, again.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
With Halloween a week away, I reprint my post from last year suggesting viewing and reading material.

Most "scary movies" I dislike. They are what I think of as "shockers": the visual equivalent of jumping out of the dark and yelling BOO!, or worse, "gorefests" that shock in the same way the sight of a bad car wreck with its blood and death grabs the attention and causes the audrenaline to pump. To these movies I say, So what.

I do like "suspense" movies: the kind that induce sustained apprehension, like Jaws. And I like "weird" movies, that mess with my mind, challenge my thinking and perceptions, and disturb me at a deep level. Like The Exorcist. But mostly, I think the realm of The Weird is better done in literature.

So this Halloween, if you must watch a movie, I recommend The Exorcist, or the original 1925 Phantom of the Opera with Lon Chaney, or perhaps the 1922 Nosferatu, or maybe the 1932 The Mummy with Boris Karloff, or if you can find it the 1932 Freaks.

But, I recommend you read this Halloween. (more below)

Somehow the interaction of author and reader in the privacy of the mind, the necessity of one's own images and imagination, the quiet of a good book in a quiet house with only the reading light on, makes for a more satisfying experience of The Weird.

There are so, so many great pieces of weird literature, in length from short stories to novels, that even I recognize the presumption of picking out a "best of category" selection. (Though I'll probably try in a future post; apparently my hubris knows no bounds.)

What I want to do is make a few suggestions of some American authors you may have overlooked.

First, from the earlier days of literature in this country, two authors that may be overlooked because of the overpowering brilliance and reputation of Edgar Allan Poe: Washington Irving and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Both of these men turned out some great short stories of Weird Fiction. For Irving: most of you have probably seen one version or another of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," now read the story, and also "The Adventure of the German Student." Hawthorne could write with power of the darkness of human existence: "Ethan Brand," "Young Goodman Brown," "Feathertop," and of course The House of the Seven Gables.

Next, Ambrose Bierce: "The Death of Halpin Fraser," praised by H.P. Lovecraft as a "mountain-peak" of American writing.

And, if you've never read Robert W. Chambers, locking the doors before you begin reading his stories will not calm your nerves, they are fears of the mind and soul, not the body: "The Yellow Sign," and "The Maker of Moons".

Of course, if you love Weird Fiction, you've not overlooked H.P. Lovecraft. He messes with my mind.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
What is a Christian to make of the Harry Potter stories? Cardinal George Pell argues that while the stories are not built on a Christian world-view, the virtues exhibited by Harry Potter are compatible with Christianity.
Gotta love Hollywood. Watching Law and Order: SVU this evening. The setting was the war on terror, the themes torture and private military contractors. And the bad guys--us. (I will admit I did not watch the last twenty minutes of the show, way too preachy.

The dangers created by a large, unassimilated minority within a nation are on display again in the Netherlands, where rioting has lasted for days. Gateway Pundit has brought the news together.

I am unable to find anything in the English-language press about the riots. Most of the reporting in English seems to be coming through the blogosphere.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
The New York Post is on the job investigating the continuing saga of Hillary Clinton's fund-raising scandal. Apparently Hsu is just a part of a larger pattern of funny money coming from Chinese sources. It seems like 1996 all over again.

How can anyone trust a thing the Clintons do or say?
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Bosque Boys friend and contributor, Tocqueville, offers up this brief but perceptive analysis of the recently concluded gubernatorial race in the Bayou State:

1. You will note that all the Democratic Party theories about race, the South, and politics were again disproven as Louisiana elected a conspicuously dark-skinned Indian as governor. He won an absolute majority in a field of ten.

2. He was a Republican who defeated a Democrat. I suggest that, even if the media and the Democrats cannot determine who was responsible for the Hurricane Katrina disaster, the electorate in Louisiana understands perfectly well that the corrupt, clownish Democrat mayor of New Orleans and the bumbling Democrat governor of Louisiana warrant the lion's share of the blame.

If the Bush administration is responsible and the governor and the mayor were merely bystanders, one would hardly expect the party of Bush to sweep a Louisiana gubernatorial election with this ease. Coupled with the near defeat of Democrat Tsongas in Massachusetts, one would think that this result in Louisiana would send shivers down the spines of the Democratic Party.

A Post Script: Did you see that Harry Reid's approval numbers in Nevada are lower than Bush's numbers? I find no commentary to this effect in the mainstream media.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
James Watson, Nobel prize-winning geneticist ("the father of DNA"), is under fire for racist remarks he made to London's Sunday Times Magazine.

Quoth he (as reported in the above British article):

He says that he is “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours–-whereas all the testing says not really”, and I know that this “hot potato” is going to be difficult to address.

His hope is that everyone is equal, but he counters that “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”. He says that you should not discriminate on the basis of colour, because “there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level”. He writes that “there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so”.

The Reaction?

International furor and universal condemnation.

According to the International Herald Tribune:

"London's Science Museum canceled a sold-out lecture, and the University of Edinburgh, where the scientist was to speak Monday, issued a statement saying it had withdrawn the invitation."

At which point, Watson canceled his book tour and returned to America. In addition to his engagements in London and Edinburgh, Watson was also set to deliver major lectures at Cambridge, Newcastle, Bristol and Oxford.

Reaction in America:

From TIME Magazine :

"There is no scientific basis for such a belief."

"For one thing, science has no agreed-upon definition of "race:" however you slice up the population, the categories look pretty arbitrary. For another, science has no agreed-upon definition of "intelligence" either--let alone an agreed-upon method to test it. All kinds of cultural biases have been identified in IQ tests, for example. If there is something fundamental in our brains that regulates our capacity to learn, we have yet to separate its effects from the effects of everything that we experience after we're born."

Having said that, TIME expresses some sympathy for Watson, wondering if the scientific giant "is less an arrogant bigot than an enthusiastic if misguided old man...."

Scott Simon, NPR's Weekend Edition anchor opines (linked here):

"Dr. Watson reminds us that Nobel Prize winners can also be fools."

Even Watson himself seemed outraged as his own statement, testifying now that he is at a loss to fathom how or why he would say such a thing; he is in full recant.

All parties are united in the certainty that Watson's remarks are completely inappropriate and absolutely false. Moreover, implicit in this humiliation, pursuit of similar ideas are prima facie evidence of racism, which is the ultimate career-ending condemnation.

The bottom line: This incident reeks with hypocrisy. So much for academic discourse. So much for the scientific method of observation followed by experimentation to test hypotheses derived from questions formed through experience. The academy is ostensibly designed to promote free discussion, free thought, and critical thinking. Universities purportedly serve society as fortresses to protect the free exchange of ideas.

But, obviously, there are important exceptions. As for race, we have discovered as much truth as we are willing to accept. Clearly, any further discussion in this field of study must conform to our already agreed-upon correct conclusions.

I am not a scientist. I tend to put my faith in the scientific consensus. Even more instructive, I am a naive American idealist who desperately wants to believe that "all men are created equal." However, from my lay perspective, it seems cowardly and cynical to reward some dissenting voices and punish others simply because they challenge certain sacred societal absolutes.

Ironically, those enlightened American progressives who generally seem so ready to bemoan the "chilling effect" of suppression of free speech, are the most likely to join the chorus of zealots shouting down the unorthodoxy of Dr. Watson.
Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From Reuters via the Washington Post:

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh raised $2.1 million for children of fallen Marines and law enforcement officers on Friday by auctioning off a letter from Senate Democrats denouncing him for a remark about 'phony soldiers.'"

An important story meriting prominent placement?

The Washington Post did not think so; they chose to bury the item on its "Nation" page under the "Wire" link. As of this writing (Friday night), the wire service account is underneath more than thirty other such stories.

When is Rush Limbaugh more newsworthy?

Very frequently--but mostly when he is in trouble.

He is front-page news when he demonstrates insensitivity toward an enfeebled celebrity venturing into the political arena (the Michael J. Fox tumult). Limbaugh has also found himself at the top of the page concerning his personal life, when his battle with addiction to prescription drugs found its way into the public domain or later when authorities detained him for carrying Viagra on an international flight. Evidently, those incidents were stories with high news value.

So, Limbaugh is a person of general public interest. Is there anything special about this particular story?

I think so. Limbaugh earned a record-breaking amount of money for a worthy cause. The ebay auction netted the biggest charitable contribution in the history of the online-bidding enterprise. Limbaugh more than doubled the previous record.

Did the story involve any other persons of note? Were there any compelling special interest angles?

You bet. The online charity auction was the ensuing chapter to a major imbroglio from the recent past. Fifteen days ago, Limbaugh found himself on the defensive when the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, and forty fellow Democrats in the Senate, charged him with making "outrageous...unpatriotic and indefensible comments" directed at soldiers dissenting against the war in Iraq. The story was above-the-fold news in all the major dailies and the network news shows.

The developments today unquestionably constitute a noteworthy follow-up to that featured story.

But what did all that add up to for the mainstream network news desks tonight? A big fat zero. I could find no coverage on the big three nightly news broadcasts or on the Newshour.

In fairness, I must accord some left-handed praise for the New York Times for at least covering the culminating event. They currently feature a full-length, in-house story on the front page of their website: Limbaugh Sells Critical Letter for $2.1 Million.

However, the story begins and develops with a pungently hostile slant. Check out this lead:

"After Rush Limbaugh referred to Iraq war veterans critical of the war as “phony soldiers,” he received a letter of complaint signed by 41 Democratic senators."

TWELVE (let me repeat, TWELVE) graphs later, we get Limbaugh's side of the story:

"Mr. Limbaugh has said that he was only referring to one soldier who was critical of the war and had served only 44 days in the Army and never seen combat."

In between, we learn that Harry Reid is a big enough person to applaud the charitable gift. Quoting Reid:

"I strongly believe that when we can put our differences aside, even Harry Reid and Rush Limbaugh, we should do that and try to accomplish good things for the American people."

We also learn that Rush was dead wrong in his character assessment of the Leader:

"He [Limbaugh] predicted the sale’s success would anger the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, a signer of the letter, who[m] Mr. Limbaugh calls 'Dingy Harry."

But no--Reid was just tickled pink over the news.

In a truly bizarre conclusion, the Times, consulting a purported tax law expert, insinuates:

"the Casey foundation [the high bidder] might be liable for taxes because it would have difficulty demonstrating that the purchase of the letter furthered a charitable purpose. [Quoting the tax attorney]: 'They’d have to establish the link between the transfer of money for that letter and promoting free speech, and that’s going to be tough.'"

Say what? I don't have a law degree, and I have no experience with the IRS--but come now.

A 2.1 million-dollar gift to a registered charity is going to be tough to justify?

Bottom Line: No fair-minded person can say that the mainstream media is a level playing field for prominent conservatives like Rush Limbaugh. In other words, objectivity is always subjective.

UPDATE: Thomas Lifson (link via RCP here) asks a question to which we all know the answer, but it is nevertheless brilliantly illustrative: what if a Republican leader had attacked a liberal media favorite in a similar manner, using the power of Congress to intimidate a major media outlet? Would the smashing return shot have been news?
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Please note this brilliant Gerard Baker essay via the TimesOnline :

The US is a great place to be anti-American

"Al Gore...Nobel Peace Prize, an Oscar and an Emmy...Michael Moore...[the] Dixie Chick[s]...Sean Penn...[Jimmy Carter]...Bill Clinton."

"It has always amused me that the same people who denounce America as a seething cesspit of blind obscurantist bigotry can’t see the irony that America itself produces its own best critics. When there’s a scab to be picked on the American body politic, no one does it with more loving attention, more rigorous focus on the detail, than Americans themselves."

"I can only laugh when I see the popular portrayal of George Bush’s America in much of the international media. Supposedly serious commentators will say, without evident irony, that free speech is under attack, that Bush’s wiretapping, Guantanamo-building, tourist-fingerprinting regime is terrifying Americans into quiet, desperate acquiescence in the country’s proliferating crimes."

Read the entire piece here. I only wish I had written it. Thanks to Tocqueville for the heads-up.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From the Congressional Budget Office--May 2007:

"The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) was established by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 to expand health insurance coverage to uninsured children in families with income that is modest but too high to qualify for Medicaid. SCHIP is financed jointly by the federal government and the states, and it is administered by the states within broad federal guidelines. Since the program’s inception, the Congress has provided nearly $40 billion for it. Approximately 6.6 million children were enrolled in SCHIP at some time during 2006, as were about 670,000 adults through waivers of statutory provisions.

"Under current law, SCHIP is not authorized to continue beyond 2007, and the Congress is considering reauthorization of the program this year."

en•ti•tle•ment n.

1. The act or process of entitling.

2. The state of being entitled.

3. A government program that guarantees and provides benefits to a particular group.

According to the Heritage Foundation, SCHIP is not formally an entitlement; rather, SCHIP is a "capped spending program."

Perhaps Heritage is right in the most technical sense--but the recent debate proves beyond a reasonable doubt that SCHIP, in reality, has arrived as an "entitlement."

Congress appropriated $40 billion over the course of a decade to the joint state-federal program. Now the President wants to increase the outlay by $5 billion (perhaps "up to" $6 billion) over the next five years. The Democratic Congress has proposed and passed a bill that increases expenditures $35 billion over the same period.

Significantly, neither the President nor Republican leadership question the purpose or worthiness of the program.

From the WH website:

"President Bush believes that S-CHIP...should return to its original focus, which is helping those children in need. This important program helps children whose families cannot afford private health insurance, but do not qualify for Medicaid to get coverage they need. President Bush calls on Congress to pass a responsible S-CHIP bill."

The question is no longer whether the government should provide health coverage for poor children; rather; how much should we expand the program? The President says 20 percent (maybe a little more). Democrats in Congress (and more than a handful of Republicans) say 140 percent.

Of course, it is worth noting that the mainstream media and the opposition have reported President Bush's plan for a modest expansion as callous indifference toward children at risk.

One caller to C-SPAN's Washington Journal this morning asserted health care as a fundamental right and observed, "this administration is always touting safety, but how can you be safe if you are not healthy."

Another caller demanded that President Bush bow to the will of the people on this issue. Polling indicates that a clear majority of Americans support the expansion as proposed by the Democratic Congress.

Others asked incredulously how this President can preside over a $600-billion war while he denies a paltry $30 billion for expanded healthcare for the children.

Kudos to President Bush for making a limited government stand--although he has not helped himself with his inability to articulate a coherent principled position. However, it is almost certain, at some point, the President and Democratic leadership will arrive at compromise. My guess is that the program will look a lot more like the Congressional plan than the White House version.

As I have said before, it is hard to argue against better healthcare for children. On the other hand, we should be clear about what has transpired during this session of Congress, another entitlement has been born.
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
New on the blogosphere, Politeia, comes highly recommended by Tocqueville.

From the “Manifesto,” an excerpt from a post entitled "Eternal Truths":

"We value the traditions and institutions, the legacy of good governance of those countries in which proper democracies have taken hold.

"We decline to make excuses for, and oppose those, who empathize with totalitarian regimes and movements for which democracy is the enemy, regimes that oppress their own peoples and movements that aspire to do so. We draw a firm line between ourselves and those voices today who offer an apologetic explanation for such political forces.

"We believe that bullies, terrorists, totalitarians and political blackmailers must not be appeased, but be made known, in no uncertain terms and deeds, where the line is drawn that will not be crossed.

"We are not warmongers. Nor do we harbour any perverse admiration for the 'aesthetics' or romantic notions over the triumphs of war or revolution. But we are not pacifists either. Real evil, and forces that strive for our destruction must be fought, in the last resort also with weapons. Nor do we wish to rule the use of ultimate force for out as a tool of negotiation."

Check it out and let us know what you think. I am extremely interested in the informed opinions of our reading community.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A salient and concise explanation of the current economic dilemma:

"[T]he fundamental question is, what do we do to help homeowners? I don't think we ought to be providing bailouts for lenders, but I do think we ought to put policy in place that helps people stay in their home. And that's why this FHA modernization bill is really important, because it will extend the reach of the FHA, and enable more people to refinance their homes.

"Part of the issue in the housing market has been, as a result of asset bundling, it's hard sometimes for people to find somebody to talk to, to help them refinance. In other words, in the old days, you go into your local savings and loan, and sit down and negotiate a house deal, and the person with whom you negotiated would be around if you had financial difficulties, to say, can't you help me restructure? Today the originator of the note no longer owns the note, in many cases.

"The securitization of mortgages actually provides a lot of liquidity in the market, and that's a good thing. But it also creates an issue here in America, and that is, how do we get people to understand the nature of the mortgages they bought, and how do you help people refinance to stay in their home? And so that's what Secretary Paulson, Secretary Jackson have been working on, particularly with the private sector, to facilitate the ability to people to refinance."

Well stated. Clear, informed, and correct. Who said it?

A Harvard MBA. President Bush offered this exegesis in answer to a question posed by a reporter at his White House press conference on Wednesday.

Not bad. Not likely to make it onto Letterman, but it is nice when the President reminds us that he is not an ignoramus. But, of course, tomorrow is another day.
When it comes to Domestic Policy, the core value of the Democratic Party is simple to state, simple to understand, and has predictible policy implications. In a nutshell, the Democratic Party core value is: The Federal Government Is Responsible for the Well-Being of American Citizens.

Some corollaries: the Federal Government is responsible for maintaining a good economy so that citizens have jobs and income; for those citizens who are not prospering economically it is the Federal government's responsibility to provide for their needs; since a college education is seen as a ticket to greater well-being, the Federal Government will provide financing to institutions and to students (student loans); good health is essential to well-being so the Federal Government will ensure that everyone has insurance, or, provide affordable health-care, and to prevent citizens from damaging their own health, will take steps to discourage smoking and obesity; et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

The Democrats have had this core value for Domestic Policy since FDR's New Deal, policies to implement this value are in place (e.g. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, funding for the Interstate Highway System), and while taxpayers may complain the same taxpayers will not give up the fruits of this core value such as Federal money for large lakes, highway bridges, guaranteed student loans, or Social Security.

What of the Republican core value? (more below)

» Read More

Herein lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here at the dawning of the Twentieth Century. This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line.
W.E.B. DuBois, 1903

More than a century later, the problem of race in America continues to present the most daunting, toxic, and seemingly intractable cultural dilemma of our age. I am convinced that we cannot go on as we are.

We are irreversibly pointed toward a re-evaluation of racial politics in America. In the simplest terms, our current cultural standard rests on according preferences to descendants of victims of past racial discrimination and abominations at the expense of other Americans increasingly less different from the protected class and more and more unconnected to the sins of the fathers. Such a system cannot survive the coming reconciliation with basic principles of American justice and equality.

In brief, here is what I believe:

» Read More

From the AP via Drudge:

"We solemnly demand that the U.S. cancel the extremely wrong arrangements," said [Chinese] Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. "It seriously violates the norm of international relations and seriously wounded the feelings of the Chinese people and interfered with China's internal affairs."

Full story here.

The "extremely wrong arrangements"?

Over the objections of the Chinese, President Bush met with the Dalai Lama today (Tuesday), entertaining the Tibetan holy man and celebrated dissenter in the private residence section of the White House. Beijing believed that the President ought to have avoided the meeting altogether--but, at the very least, they demanded that he wait for the conclusion of the Chinese Communist Party conference.

The President disregarded the request. As TR might say, "Bully!"

kow•tow –verb

1. to act in an obsequious manner; show servile deference.

2. to touch the forehead to the ground while kneeling, as an act of worship, reverence, apology, etc., esp. in former Chinese custom.

[Origin: Chinese, kòutóu; lit., knock (one's) head]

The Okie Gardener is the closest thing we have to a resident Sinologist (or, perhaps more precisely, a China-watcher), but it has been my intention for some time to comment on the ancient Chinese custom of the kòutóu (pronounced with the hard "o" sound), from which we derive kowtow.

The Emperor of the Middle Kingdom (China), when receiving "barbarians" (foreigners), required the kòutóu, a ritualized procedure in which the visitor bowed before the potentate, sweeping low enough for his forehead to scrape the ground. This act could be performed several times, and it was designed, rather obviously, to bring home the point of abject inferiority on the part of the supplicant.

I could not help but be reminded of the kòutóu recently when Matel Corporation went out of its way to apologize profusely for mistakes the corporation made that led to the Chinese manufacture of lead-contaminated toys--taking great pains to explain that the Chinese partners played absolutely no role in the debacle.

Excellent kòutóu.

Although the Bush administration has not always had a stellar record in standing up to Chinese intimidation (to say the least), I am happy that the “barbarian” from Texas refused to kòutóu today.

Food For Thought: Am I a hypocrite for applauding Bush's bravado and, out of the other side of my mouth, castigating Nancy Pelosi for her disastrously destructive Turkish intervention? I say apples and oranges. Feel free to share your comments.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Congratulations to Wade Phillips and the Dallas Cowboys, who, despite losing to the overwhelming New England Patriots at home on Sunday, are off to an impressive start.

As many of you know, I am not currently a loyal fan--but Phillips, son of Texas coaching legend, Bum Phillips, is a guy I can get behind. Best of luck, Coach.

Thinking about Bum Phillips, I remember fondly his homespun sincerity and his magical interlude with the Houston Oilers during the 1970s.

For a brief moment, sporting his trademark cowboy hat, and leading Houston to victory on the strength of another legendary Texan, Earl Campbell, Phillips was probably right when he asserted that the Oilers were actually "Texas's Team."

But the spell faded. After a heart-breaking loss to the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC championship game (for the second year in a row), Bum promised:

"One year ago, we knocked on the door. This year, we beat on the door. Next year, we're gonna kick the son-of-a-bitch in."

But, after a disappointing loss to the Oakland Raiders the following year in the first round of the playoffs, the Oilers fired Phillips.

The wise guys joked after the Oakland loss that Bum had meekly urinated on the door.

Which brings me to other football story making news in Waco, Texas:

From the Waco Tribune-Herald :

"[The] Baylor University assistant football coach who was cited early Sunday for urinating on a local bar, has been suspended indefinitely."

Full story here.

The head coach, Guy Morriss: “We’ve suspended him indefinitely until this situation is resolved and that’s about all I have to say at this point in time.”

Waco police cited the 30-year-old offensive line coach for disorderly conduct and/or reckless exposure after he allegedly urinated on the bar at Scruffy Murphy’s in Waco about 2 a.m. Sunday.

An aside: It has been a long time--but I have been in Scruffy's at 2 AM. Even when you are not urinating on the furniture, it is an inappropriate venue for an adult employee of Baylor University at that hour of the morning.

I suppose there are some things an institution will endure to field a competitive team--and some that they will not.

According to the Trib story, the coach in question "played collegiate football at the University of Miami from 1995-2000." It occurs to me that the threshold for the Hurricanes is relatively high.

But, for Baylor, 3-4, 0-3 in conference, and coming off a 58-10 defeat against the Kansas Jayhawks, urinating on the bar at a local beer joint probably represents something the university is unwilling to abide. Although managing personnel always presents a tension between forgiveness, accountability, and consequences, my speculation is that this decision is a no-brainer; this particular offender is toast.

The greater question: what about the already teetering head coach?

My guess is that this unfortunate episode spells the end of the Moriss era at the jewel on the Brazos. These incidents are often indicative of systemic problems within a program--even if this one is not--why take the chance?

As for the bigger picture: none of this makes me anxious to re-embrace my former pastime.
Post here from Powerline.

Who is today's most ruthless politician who acts as though the ends always justify the means and seeks to destroy political opponents? Hillary Clinton. A vote for Hillary is a vote for another Nixon.

Remember the use of FBI files? The smear attacks on women who accused Bill of misconduct? The assertion that a conspiracy existed to destroy the Clintons?

Where have we seen ruthlessness, paranoia, and identification of personal ambition with national good? Oh yes, Richard Nixon. Perhaps I should start calling Hillary Tricky Dick.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
This morning on C-SPAN3 (quoting their blurb):


"Jena Six" & Hate Crimes

"Donald Washington, U.S. Atty. for the Western District of Louisiana, testifies at a House Judiciary Cmte. hearing on the "Jena Six." The Cmte. is investigating why the Justice Dept. did not pursue hate crime prosecutions following the noose incident at Jena High School. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) chairs the hearing."

End quote.

You may watch live online here (9:30 Eastern).

Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and his posse will take on a Bush-appointed African American U.S. Attorney. In general, U.S. attorneys are incredibly talented, amazingly logical and articulate, and absolutely persuasive advocates.

Over the past few months, myriad politicians and pundits (many of whom will be on display today) have accused the Bush administration of passing over the best and the brightest for politically subservient hacks to fill these vital positions. We will only ascertain that truth of that accusation over time and our analysis will be the product of events that transpire in hundreds of venues across the nation.

Having said that, ironically, by inference, today's showdown will most likely offer a unique and telling window into the inside of the current DOJ and the Bush White House personnel record.
Category: Something Personal
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Last Tuesday, I sat in with the guys from Political Vindication Radio and Shane from NeoCon News for a blogger's roundtable. Fun stuff. Good guys.

They archive their past shows, so you are welcome to catch up with last week's discussion--if you are a mind.

This week Frank and Shane interview Spree from "Wake Up America."

Listen live here Tuesday nights at 6:00 PM Pacific.

Thanks again for the red-state fellowship. Godspeed.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
I just finished teaching an 8-week introductory course in American Federal Government on the campus of Ft. Sill for a nearby university. The majority of the students were active-duty Army taking the class over their lunch hour, with some from the regular campus population who liked the time. I did the same class in the summer. The students spent the last week of each class presenting Issue Papers and debating. Each student had chosen a topic of current policy interest and researched it. In their papers, 1 page max, each student presented a question concerning Federal Government policy, and gave his/her answer, a defense of the answer, and an action plan to work toward implementing that answer. The papers were then presented in class and debated.

In both classes several student chose something related to abortion. Though my sample is too small to have poly-sci validity, I offer some observations. Here is where it gets interesting for the politics of pro-choice versus pro-life:

1. Nearly all my students were pro-choice. Given that my classes probably were toward the more conservative end of the late-teens and twenty-something spectrum, the pro-choice movement may be making progress.

2. Interestingly, all the students who supported the availability of legal abortion thought there should be limits: they wanted new laws against late-term abortions and limits to the number of abortions one woman could have. Nobody argued for an absolute right to abort a baby. The pro-choice movement may be causing itself a problem by arguing for the absolute right to abortion without restrictions.

3. In one debate, some of the men argued that fathers should have a legal say in the decision to abort. The women in the class reacted emotionally against such an idea--a woman's body was her own to make decisions about. I think the pro-life movement would do well to make sure that the front-line in the fight against abortion is made up of women: men who picket abortion clinics probably are viewed by pro-choice women as just more men who want to control women.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
The other morning I heard a radio talk-show host opine that for Romney to break out of the low poll numbers, he would need to address the fact of his Mormonism head-on. The host said that Romney should give the nation a short-course in Mormonism. Perhaps he meant that conservative unease with the thought of a Mormon president was due to fear of the unknown.

But fear of the unknown is not the problem. Southern evangelicals are in a battle for converts with Mormon missionaries, the nearly ubiquitous pairs of neatly dressed young men and women who can be seen walking or bicycling through suburbs everywhere. In the South especially, Mormons present themselves very much as the church of God and country, patriotism and traditional morality. Local Southern Baptists feel the Mormon missionaries are stealing their best lines. In Sunday School classes and from pulpits conservative church-goers are warned against "the cults;" that list includes Mormonism.

For Romney to address his Mormonism explicitly in a high-profile way carries a great political risk. So long as conservative Christians don't think about his religion, Romney could seem an attractive candidate. But if he were to address his religion in an attention-getting fashion, tens-of-thousands of evangelicals will get the heebie-jeebies. They have been primed to react this way.

And, there is another reason for Romney not to give the address the radio host called for. Trying to explain Mormonism, even in a short course, will involve the now-you-see-them, now-you-don't Golden Plates, the belief that "God" is Adam-become-the-god-for-this-world, that any male Mormon potentially can become a god with his own world, that there are a potentially infinite number of gods, that women reach a place in paradise based on the achievements of their man, etc. The buzz generated by a Romney Mormonism speech will bring up not just polygamy, but also holy underwear, the former ban on black priests, and the "history" of North America that contradicts everything anthropology and archealogy teaches. He would risk alienating many beyond the evangelical base whose reaction might be, "that's just plain weird."

I don't think Romney has a snowball's chance to capture the 08 Republican nomination.
Category: Thinking Out Loud
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A few more random and half-baked reactions:

1. I ran a Bosque Boys search for "al gore," and I was surprised by the number of entries and the variety of posts. I modestly suggest that the thread offers several essays worth a second look here.

2. The more I think about all this, the harder it becomes to see this award as anything more than "gotcha" politics. Having said that, the Nobel folks can point to a noble tradition of tweaking the powerful and lending support to worthy dissenters. As I mentioned earlier, Lech Walesa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983. The Prize committee, undoubtedly, meant to harass and shame the totalitarian, Soviet-controlled Polish government.

In the same vein, the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Martin Luther King in 1964 was clearly directed at embarrassing the various oppressive American governments clinging to a Jim-Crow past.

Were these awards political? Yes. Were they aimed at goring someone's ox? Yes. But were the recipients deserving? Yes. Do the awards stand the test of time? Yes.

On the other hand:

Do all of the Nobel Peace Prize winners stand up to these standards? Yasser Arafat (translation: No).

Has the Prize diminished in stature and power as a result of frivolous and petty politics? Jimmy Carter. Al Gore (translation: unfortunately, YES).
Allow me a few less-than-gracious thoughts on Al Gore and the Nobel Peace Prize:

1. How can anyone take the Nobel Peace Prize seriously again?

2. Kofi Anan, Jimmy Carter, Mohamad el Baradei, and now Al Gore. The conclusion of the Bush administration will necessitate a paradigm shift for the awards committee, as the number one criterion--stick it in the eye of George Bush--will eventually recede as the primary consideration.
When my wife and I were newlyweds in the late '70s, the retired couple in the next trailer invited us over for supper. Most of the evening was spent listening to their sales pitch for past-life regression hypnosis along with stories of their "past lives." They were into some sort of Americanized verzion of some sort of Buddhism. Then the woman said, "That's why I am so against abortion, it breaks the karmic cycle."

From listening to the MSM, one would assume that all pro-life activists were right-wing evangelical and Roman Catholic fanatics. While I suspect that the largest group of anti-abortion Americans fit into that category, it certainly does not cover everyone.

Check out these sites:

Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League Homepage

Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians

Libertarians for Life

Feminism & Nonviolence Studies

A Buddhist Look at Abortion

Jews for Life

Pagans for Life
On Oct. 8, 1956, Larsen was as close to perfect as any pitcher can be and he chose the most important series in baseball to have his shining moment. Story.

The occasion was Game 5 of the World Series, Yankees versus Dodgers. A perfect game.

We watch sports for many reasons: the excitement that takes us out of our narrow concerns and for a moment or an hour induces self-forgetfulness, the camaraderie with other fans that makes us part of a larger fellowship even if only for an afternoon, the satisfaction of the same deep feelings that caused pagans to mark the progression of seasons with ceremonies: fall football, spring baseball.

But we also watch sports to see occasional human perfection--Montana floating a pass through the narrow window that exists only for a moment between the cornerback and safety, and into the hands of the receiver who will cross that window for a fraction of a second, all as Joe evades a rushing defensive end with mayhem on his mind; Jeeter leaping to snare a scorching liner then twisting his body to throw a bullet to first, catching the runner off the bag, all before Derek's feet hit the ground again; Stockton surrounded by giants down in the paint, hitting Malone streaking in from the corner even though John's glimpse of Karl was a fleeting sight of jersey briefly glimpsed between defenders.

Those we watch on summer evenings and fall afternoons and winter nights give us occasional glimpses of human perfection, gods at play. Major league baseball has burned me more than once, but, I'll be in front of the television for all the games I can, watching the World Series. Maybe I'll see a god at play.
"The [Founders] would be amazed and disappointed that after 220 years, the inheritors of their Constitution had not tried to adapt to new developments that the founders could never have anticipated in Philadelphia in 1787."

So says Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia and author of "A More Perfect Constitution: 23 Proposals to Revitalize Our Constitution and Make America a Fairer Country" as quoted in the LA Times--full article here.

It is hard to imagine anyone other than a political scientist presuming, with such authority and absolute certainty, to speak for the founders concerning modern politics.

According to Professor Sabato, the founders would endorse a long list of changes proposed by--no surprise here--Professor Sabato. How shall all this be accomplished? A 21st century Constitutional Convention.

What historical evidence does Professor Sabato offer to prove his assertion that he is channeling the Spirits of 1787? One lonely voice.

Sabato again:

"Thomas Jefferson, for example, insisted that 'no society can make a perpetual Constitution. ... The Earth belongs always to the living generation. ... Every Constitution ... naturally expires at the end of 19 years' (the length of a generation in Jefferson's time)."

Good enough? Hardly.

1. Thomas Jefferson is a founding father but not a constitutional "framer," which is an important distinction Sabato neglects to mention--much less explain. Inarguably, Jefferson is an American icon and a first-tier member of the founding generation. However, it is necessary to make clear that Jefferson was not a party to the Constitutional Moment. He did not attend the Constitutional Convention of 1787 of which Sabato makes mention. Jefferson did not contribute to The Federalist, the collection of essays designed to explain and defend the Constitution, and, early on, he was famously less-invested in the Constitution than his good friend and long-time political partner, James Madison, whom we rightly call the Father of the Constitution. It is worth noting that Madison thought this "nineteen-year cycle" of legitimacy complete lunacy.

2. Eventually, even Jefferson came to believe his revolutionary ravings were ill-considered and sheepishly backed away from his initial assertion regarding generational sovereignty.

Another glaring fallacy in Sabato's ham-handed assertion: the history of the United States is very much the story of change over time. We have adapted plenty. We have also added twenty-seven amendments to the handiwork of the framers. I invite Professor Sabato to draft a few more and subject them to public scrutiny and debate.

But a Constitutional Convention?

We should give thanks to Providence that we have not had another Constitutional Convention over the last 220 years. May God in Heaven grant us the wisdom to understand that the perfect is the enemy of the good.

For years I have confessed to my classes my fear that another Constitutional Convention would portend the expedited end to our American experiment in self rule.


1. The framers of the Constitution met in closed session. We did not know with any degree of accuracy exactly what went on behind those closed doors until the death of all the men present. Amazingly, there were no leaks. They purposely sequestered themselves and kept one another's secrets so that special interests and demagogues could not foist upon the proceedings ill-advised whims, narrow considerations, and popular foolishness.

The next Constitutional Convention will not meet in executive session. The next Constitutional Convention will be a circus--covered wall-to-wall by C-SPAN and CNN and Fox News. Every delegate will harbor personal ambitions greater than his/her desire to form a more perfect union, and he/she inevitably will hold press conferences after every session, playing to the crowds and mugging for the cameras.

This is a formula for an unwieldy, incoherent, and rotten-to-the-core manifesto of political correctness and Beltway legalese.

2. We caught lightening in a bottle in the summer of 1787. We can never hope to equal the brilliance, dedication, and public-mindedness of the 55 men who attended the real Constitutional Convention. Not even if we invited Larry Sabato.
Story. From the International Herald Tribune.

It is important to realize that Hirsi Ali may be the first refugee from Western Europe since the Holocaust. As such, she is a unique and indispensable witness to both the strength and weakness of the West: to the splendor of open society, and to the boundless energy of its antagonists. She knows the challenges we face in our struggle to contain the misogyny and religious fanaticism of the Muslim world, and she lives with the consequences of our failure each day. There is no one in a better position to remind us that tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.

Having recapitulated the Enlightenment for herself in a few short years, Hirsi Ali has surveyed every inch of the path leading out of the moral and intellectual wasteland that is traditional Islam. She has written two luminous books describing her journey, the most recent of which, "Infidel," has been an international bestseller for months. It is difficult to exaggerate her courage. As Christopher Caldwell wrote in The New York Times, "Voltaire did not risk, with his every utterance, making a billion enemies who recognized his face and could, via the Internet, share information instantaneously with people who aspired to assassinate him."

We who are not Islamic, East and West, must ask ourselves a simple question: Do we believe there is something worth defending from a totalitarian religion/culture/political system with an intrinsic expansionism? If we answer yes, then we must fight, with words and votes and weapons. If we answer no, then we must await the darkness.
Supporters of Mainline Denominations often say that the official positions of most of these groups are not as liberal as the conservatives make them out to be. In most cases this is true. But, there is a difference between official positions and the actions of the denominational establishment.

Case in point. I just received the catalog for the upcoming (Februrary) national meeting of the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators, which also includes the ed folks from my denomination, the RCA.

Included in the workshops are:

Sharing the Bible and the Qur'an with Children: "How well are our children prepared to converse with their Muslim friends? How well are they prepared to understand their own faith in view of Islam?" ---most Christian children I know still need lots of work on understanding the Bible, from the Christian point of view.

Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: "Explode the Myths, heal the Church--This workship will make a biblical case for equal rights for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender." ---there is no comparable workship on the traditional understandings of homosexuality as it affects holding church office
Category: General
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Programming Note:

The good folks on Political Vindication Radio have invited me to kick around some political issues on their internet radio show (listen here).

Please tune in tonight at 6:00 Pacific Time.
Category: Campaign 2008.5
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
It is opening day for the Republican primary debate season.

Technically, the Washington Post calls today's war of words between Republican hopefuls the "sixth major debate" of the campaign. However, in my mind, it seems to me like this group of candidates has debated many more times than that--but, at the same time, none of those events merit the adjective "major."

For all the bad press, speculation by pundits, and premature political obituaries for Fred Thompson, today kicks off the GOP canvass for 2008. And Fred is back to receive. If he fair catches, his game is over. If his opponents are able to meet him with such violent ferocity that Fred's helmet goes one way and the ball goes the other, his game is over. But, if Fred takes the ball and runs with it, GAME ON. And Fred doesn't need to take it all the way. He needs to run aggressively up the heart of the defense and take the ball up to about mid-field.

Okay. For all non-football fans, my apologies.

Bottom Line:

For the first time this political season, I plan to watch a Republican debate. That is significant. Fred is under intense pressure, for what he does today will set the tone for the rest of the scramble for nomination.

The Good News for Fred and his Fans:

1. None of his so-called disadvantages mean anything once the cameras start rolling. Fred is in total control of his destiny.

2. Fred is actually entering this debate with reduced expectations. For all the hype--most people are expecting the Darrell Hammond skit from over the weekend.

3. Fred is going to be much better than Darrell Hammond (who by the way seemed unable to move past his Dick Cheney persona to really grasp Fred; judge for yourself via YouTube here).

4. Fred is not debating Ronald Reagan or, even more intimidating, Newt Gingrich. He is debating Rudy, Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Ron Paul. If he can keep Mike Huckabee and Duncan Hunter off camera--Thompson ought to look pretty good by comparison.

The headline tomorrow may very well read: THOMPSON CRACKS RACE!
Thanks to the leak of an Osama bin Laden video prior to Al Qaeda's official release, we now have lost, at least for now, our ability to monitor their communications on the internet. Story here.

To stop those not constrained by a sense of honor and morality, the only recourse is the constraint inspired by fear. This latest leak, like others in the fight against Islamofacism, had damaged our nation's ability to defend itself. Which may mean carnage in the streets and malls of America. This administration must commit itself to the ruthless hunting down and prosecution of those who leak sensitive information.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Today Drudge cites this story from CNN and splashes the headline: "HOLY OBAMA: 'WE CAN CREATE KINGDOM ON EARTH'"

As Barack Obama crafts an appeal to "Kingdom People," it seems appropriate to revisit the Okie Gardener's excellent thumbnail explanation of American evangelicalism and its various eschatologies.

From October 10, 2006, quoting the Gardener:

"Premillennial: believing that when Jesus Christ returns he will usher in a long period of peace and justice (the millennium). In other words, there is a radical discontinuity [the return of Jesus] between present human history and the evident reign of God on earth in human history (Shalom). After the millennium comes the fulfillment.

"Amillennial: believing that Jesus will return and then usher in the fulfillment, without a period of God’s evident reign within human history. In other words, hope for Shalom will be met only beyond human history.

"Postmillennial: believing that the return of Jesus will be preceded by a period of peace and justice in which God’s reign on earth will be seen. Then comes the return of Jesus and the fulfillment. In other words, there will be a continuity between present human history and the establishment of Shalom.

"A while back, in the context of some posts on George Bush’s postmillennial theology, I mentioned that postmillennialism had been the majority opinion among evangelical Christians of the nineteenth century. Given the beliefs of contemporary evangelicals, holding to a postmillennial position seems unimaginable. In response to a comment by Joab, I promised to attempt a defense of each of these major positions. (Personal disclaimer, I am not a fully persuaded believer of one position; I tend to alternate between amillennialism and postmillennialism.)

"All Christians are optimistic in an ultimate sense: we believe that Jesus will return and triumph over his foes, and ours, including death and suffering. But is there reason for optimism before the End? In other words, do Christians expect there to be any real, overall progress within human history? The answer given to this question will vary between Christians holding differing millennial views."

To continue reading, click on the full post here.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A few months ago, my five-year-old son suffered from a case of torticollis (wry neck). In effect, torticollis is a muscle spasm that leaves ones neck immobilized and in great pain. The malady struck him suddenly during church, and by Sunday afternoon we found ourselves in the emergency room of one of our local hospitals.

I am happy to report that we received excellent care; it was professional, kind, and swift (we signed in, underwent triage, saw a doctor, received a diagnosis, and were on our way to the pharmacy with a prescription for pain medication in approximately 90 minutes).

There are two major hospitals in our community of approximately 200,000 inhabitants. One is located in the heart of the city. The other is located across the highway on the edge of the area's two most successful suburban towns. Both are state of the art medical facilities with world-class doctors and personnel.

However, our urban hospital has recently secured approval for its longtime goal of following the other into the suburbs (The suburban hospital moved away from its urban location twenty years ago).

Part of the problem for our urban hospital? Emergency Care. Unfortunately, the facility in the city has a near-monopoly on non-paying clientele.

I am not a rich person, but I am privileged to have health care subsidized by my employer (FYI: I chose the suburban emergency room).

I am not unsympathetic to those families who do not share my good fortune. I would like every person in America to have good healthcare.

What can be done?

For the life of me, I cannot get my arms around this SCHIP face-off. Like so many other Washington smack downs staged for cable news networks and hyper-interested partisans, this veto drama has been politicized to the point of confusion. Generally, in these moments I consult some of the less-political, more common-sense oriented pundits and pols--and see what they say.

This one is tough because a lot of the Senators I like (Orrin Hatch for one) have weighed in against the White House. The President's team seems confused and off their game on the facts and politics of all this. Of course, with the Bush administration that does not necessarily mean they are wrong; it is often just "situation normal...."

Some other voices of note:

George Will says: "[the bill] is a proxy fight over the future of the welfare state, meaning the trajectory of government and the burdens it will place on the economy, which, by its dynamism, must generate the revenues to pay the bills" in full here via Newsweek.

David Brooks calls the program expansion cowardly, dishonest, and an undue burden on those least able to pay here.

My favorite straight-talking pragmatist-conservative, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, is against here.

Even "Farmer's Cousin,” who has been full of insight lately, inveighs against the measure here, describing the bill as a shameless overreach disguised in maudlin rhetoric.

Bottom Line:

We seem determined to have universal care in this country, which gives me great pause. Government healthcare, in a nation that does not do big-government programs very well to begin with, is going to mean a dramatic loss of quality for most of us. Perhaps it would be more Christian for me to sacrifice first-rate care for my family so that other families might have access to merely adequate services--but, frankly, I am inclined to hold out for a better solution.

Having said that, I do so with a sense of uncertainty and more than a modicum of guilt.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
One of my favorite political commentators is David Brooks. He is a thoughtful, incisive, and well-modulated conservative beholden, seemingly, to no one.

I received his latest article via gmail from stalwart Bosque Boys reader and contributor, Tocqueville, with a succinct two-word introduction and endorsement: "he's right."

I agree with Tocqueville. This essay is a significant admission from Brooks, who (like me) has supported and exhorted the Bush attempt to remake the Middle East.

For those reasons, and in recognition of the New York Times and their recent decision to suspend their annoying and ill-considered pay-per-view regime, I am featuring this latest offering from Brooks via the NYT:

The Republican Collapse

"Modern conservatism begins with Edmund Burke. What Burke articulated was not an ideology or a creed, but a disposition, a reverence for tradition, a suspicion of radical change.

"When conservatism came to America, it became creedal. Free market conservatives built a creed around freedom and capitalism. Religious conservatives built a creed around their conception of a transcendent order. Neoconservatives and others built a creed around the words of Lincoln and the founders.

"Over the years, the voice of Burke has been submerged beneath the clamoring creeds. In fact, over the past few decades the conservative ideologies have been magnified, while the temperamental conservatism of Burke has been abandoned."

Brooks goes on to sketch out the fissures in the modern American conservative movement.

I encourage you to read the full article here (free subscription still required).

And this conclusion from Brooks:

"American conservatism will never be just dispositional conservatism. America is a creedal nation. But American conservatism is only successful when it’s in tension — when the ambition of its creeds is restrained by the caution of its Burkean roots."
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Much has been made recently about "not counting the votes" in the 2004 Election. A few weeks ago, we were subjected to the crazy college kid who berated John Kerry for not contesting the re-election of George Bush.

Now Elizabeth Edwards reveals that she too was:

"very disappointed, not just because we did not count the votes, but because we promised people that if they stood in line and fought for the right to vote, that we would fight with them. And I was very disappointed that the decision was made by the campaign, over John’s [presumedly Edwards] objection, not to fight."

Source: the quote comes from an interview on Air America via a post on Politico here.

Reality Check: George Bush beat John Kerry by over 3,000,000 votes.

Granted, the rub is Ohio, where George Bush out-polled John Kerry by a mere 118,599 votes--but come on folks. If the Dems could have somehow gotten that 118, 599 vote advantage thrown out and won Ohio, which would have given John Kerry an electoral college victory, Kerry would have still lost the popular vote by 2,893,897.

Angry Democrats continue to call the Election of 2000--in which Al Gore out-polled Bush by 539,947 ballots but lost by 3 electoral votes--the "stolen" election. It escapes me how Mrs. Edwards and other nutcases can honestly posit that an election they lost by THREE MILLION VOTES was somehow given away in the hectic moments following the tally.

Give it a rest.
Category: Campaign 2008.5
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The Laugh:

Although I continue to think Hillary will be Clinton-44, I am not unaware of the absolutely, ridiculously unappealing public persona she presents.

From a year ago:

"If elected president of the United States in 2008, Hillary Clinton will make the least attractive and least affable chief executive of the modern media age. From the piercing laugh (oftentimes when nothing is funny) to the menacing scowl when the TV cameras catch her in unguarded moments, Mrs. Clinton tends to come across unnervingly manufactured, even soulless at times.

"A sensitive person winces at the potential for insult and imitation, if professional comedians ever draw their bead on the Senator from New York. Essentially humorless, Mrs. Clinton projects a deep cynicism that seems unbecoming as the leader of the free world. Up to this point, her most memorable public utterance remains, "the vast right-wing conspiracy," when she famously identified a mysterious cabal engaged in a plot to bring down her and her husband.

"Having said all that, if she is elected (and at this moment, she is the most likely person to be the forty-fourth president of the United States), America will endure; perhaps, we will even prosper."

Full post here.

Obama and Race:

The issue of race seems to be coming to a head. As I said back in July, race is a major problem of perception for Democrats more than a genuine electoral disadvantage:

"One other thing going against Obama: Race. I am not convinced that race would hurt Obama in the general election. In fact, I think race for Obama is, at worst, a wash. My hunch is that race would actually play to his advantage. Undoubtedly, there are still some Americans who would not vote for him because he is an African American. But most of those folks live in states that are not likely to go Democrat anyway. Maybe he will lose Alabama by a few more votes than a white Democratic candidate would have, but nothing from nothing leaves nothing. No net loss. On the other hand, I think there will be some voters of all races who will vote for Obama because he is black, and my hunch is that many of those voters may be in swing states where every converted vote counts.

"So, why does race play to Obama's disadvantage? Democrats do not buy the scenario I just laid out. In their heart of hearts, according to their world view, fly-over America is racist and will not vote for a black candidate. I hear Democrats (especially African American Democrats) say this all the time. So, in calculating a candidate who can beat the Republicans in 2008, Obama and race nag at their optimism. He becomes an increasingly risky choice for more and more Democratic primary voters.

"Add in Bill, organization and battle-tested hired guns, and Hill looks more like a winner every day."

Full post here.

One more updated wrinkle: The Democrats are likely to opt out on Obama for the reasons stated above--and then blame it on Red-State America. "We couldn't nominate a black man because of the prejudice of non-Democrats."
Does the GOP have a chance in 2008?

Anything is possible. But as I have written repeatedly over the last eighteen months, this is a Democratic year. The odds are that Hillary Clinton will be the forty-fourth president of the United States.

A month ago, I offered a recipe for a long shot victory.

Here is another thought:

An independent Ron Paul candidacy paves the way for a GOP upset.

Ron Paul's surprisingly impressive recent five-million-dollar campaign contribution haul has some pundits wondering if he has a chance in the Republican primary. Short Answer: not in this lifetime. He may finish in double-digits in a state or two in which so-called independent voters make up a statistically significant segment of the voting, but, even in those places, Dr. Ron Paul will never finish in the money. Why? His position on Iraq makes him completely unacceptable to the Republican faithful. In terms of the GOP caucus, the Paul candidacy is deader than a doornail.

However, one thing is absolutely certain. He has a noteworthy following. Of course, the money talks. But even before this announcement the power of his popular appeal has been conspicuous on places like C-SPAN, where his followers are relentlessly dedicated and unwavering. In fact, they remind me of Howard Stearn fans or, even better, the "truthers" in their persistence and their palpable certainty that they know something we don't.

So what?

Ron Paul is NOT going to win the Republican nomination. He is actually much more popular among Democrats--but he is not going to win that nomination either. Of course, the Democrats would score the coup of the century, if they could garner Paul's endorsement for their eventual nominee. But I don't think that will ever happen.

However, what might happen is that Ron Paul, rejected by Republicans and disdainful of Democrats, might choose to run for president as an independent libertarian candidate. Of course, Paul has done this before--but back then no one outside of his congressional district had ever heard of him.

If Paul were to run this time, his candidacy would be a major media event. And he would garner a lot of votes--not from traditional Republican voters-- but a lot of votes, nevertheless.

Who would vote for Ron Paul? The frustrated, cynical, disgruntled, ill-informed and numerous outliers of American political culture. The one-time Nader voters. The non-voters. The guys and gals with sock caps and questionable hygiene who hang out in non-franchised coffee shops and bemoan the closing vise of a corrupt government and mindlessly manipulative and corrosive society. The most virulent anti-war radicals. The anti-globalization crowd.

None of these folks are going to vote for the party of George Bush in 2008. Of course, many of them will sit out the election--but some of them, maybe enough of them to make a difference could possibly vote for a change--Hillary Clinton.

If these folks had a fashionable alternative, they would likely choose it. Ron Paul could very possibly siphon off the counter-cultural voters who might actually participate in the next election and make a difference.

Moreover, if Ron Paul is in the race, Hillary Clinton will not be able to tack back to the middle after gaining the nomination. She will spend a lot of time courting fringe voters who might have otherwise come to her by default. Most importantly, if Hillary is forced to remain stridently opposed to the war, she will lose a significant slice of Americans who are confused and depressed--but not quite ready to jump off the bridge.

Most of the commentators who continue to believe that Hillary is easily beatable in November fail to anticipate how moderate she aims to be in the general election. Hillary Clinton does not intend to run for president as an agent of radical change. Rather, she is prepared to court the American public in well-tailored suits, perfectly coifed hair, standing next to her ex-President husband, and promising a return to competent and steady leadership. This is a winning strategy.

However, if Dr. Paul is in the race hammering Mrs. Clinton as "more of the same," she will face a serious decision. She will try to have it both ways for as long as she can--but, eventually, she will necessarily pick mainstream, Middle America over the coffeehouse crowd. When Mrs. Clinton abandons the fringe voters, and Ron Paul picks them up, the GOP candidate will emerge in a suddenly much more competitive race.

Run, Ron, Run.
Category: Frivolity
Posted by: an okie gardener
Materialistic Lust, aka Covetousness. At least I recognize my vices when they whisper in my ear.

Really neat stuff made from old airplane parts: chairs, desks, tables, etc. "If I were a rich man, duh duh dee dah dee dah dee, . . ."

04/10: "Gay" Culture

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
I have assumed for some time, based on anecdotal evidence, that what passes for gay culture in the MSM is a sanitized version. For a very unsanitized version Little Green Footballs links to a photoessay from the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco. WARNING: the photographs are not safe for work and should not be viewed by anyone under 18.

It must be nice to have enablers like the MSM to present more acceptable images to the public, while the reality remains under-reported.

I don't think I'll leave my heart in San Francisco.

I find it significant that Gay Patriot, who is as his blog title suggests, has had no success in getting gay groups to protest the fact that children are allowed at the fair.
Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I refrained from extensive commentary concerning the "General Betray Us" ad. Briefly and indirectly, on a few occasions, I made a few cursory and cryptic observations regarding the unfortunate incident. But I also predicted that the ad would have no long-term meaningful impact on the 2008 election.

However, I certainly could have commented on the NYT's hypocrisy and blatant partisanship for facilitating the ludicrous attack. I could have commented on the calculating Democratic presidential candidates who painfully contorted themselves to avoid incurring the wrath of the irrational radical fringe within their party now so vital to securing nomination. And I could have written about the cowardly silence of Democratic Party leaders, who ruinously enable that same cretin-like and corrosive coterie within their ranks.

Why did I lay off the "General Betray Us" ad?

Frankly, the entire imbroglio was beneath our mission and my talent. To quote myself: "The Okie Gardener and I envisioned this blog as an electronic salon where reasonable and earnest people might come and exchange beliefs and impressions regarding important issues."

The "General Betray Us" ad was not an important issue. It was an abomination and an embarrassment and a national humiliation--but it did not quite rise to the level of worthwhile political discourse. For me, the "General Betray Us" was akin to walking down the street and encountering hoodlums engaging in vile language. Should we take the time to instruct these barbarians in civil conduct--or do we just keep walking, choosing not to cast our pearls among swine. What really is there to say to MoveOn? And who is there to persuade who is not already immutably convinced one way or the other?

But then things got stickier. The opposition struck back. Media Matters and other liberal "watchdog" groups regularly troll the airwaves of conservative radio, listening to hundreds of hours of conversation per week, and looking for something incendiary to use against Republicans. This week they hooked a big fish: Rush Limbaugh.

They caught Rush intimating that servicemen who speak out against the war are somehow less loyal, worthy, and/or patriotic: "phony soldiers."

Lefty blogs and Democratic Party leaders in Congress, raw from the "General Betray Us" excoriation, gleefully pounced on the Rush assertion. Rush claims that his persecutors have the quote out of context.

An aside: Rush is right about this incident. The quote is out of context and much ado about not much. More importantly, a thoughtless characterization in the midst of a heated and unrehearsed conversation is categorically different from a full-page ad placed in the New York Times. Having said that, it is also true that Rush is a flamethrower and often imprecise in his speech.

As Steny Hoyer said on the floor of the House this week, "what’s good for the goose is good for the gander."

The Democrats are anxious (perhaps desperate is a better word) to make a point. They want to send a message that Republican politicians are similarly vulnerable to guilt by association. did not invent calumny. In truth, Rush and Sean et al are as good at political vituperation as any member of the party of Jackson. In the words of Robert Deniro's Al Capone, "somebody messes with me, I'm gonna mess with them." Are the Dems going to the mattresses? Maybe.

Nonetheless, "let not your hearts be troubled." Rush is safe. We take care of our own. Not because we are cravenly beholden to talk radio like the Democrats are to their lunatic fringe--but because Rush has earned our loyalty over nearly two decades of stalwart service to conservatism. He is a hero of the revolution.

Granted, Rush is not an intellectual wellspring for conservative thought, but he is a bright, self-educated, entertaining, and articulate "popularizer" of the faith, and he deserves our admiration and protection. Before there was a blogosphere, a conservative cable news channel, or a vast network of right-wing talkers, there was Rush. Standing fearless in the face of the enemy like a stonewall, Rush broke the liberal monopoly on the mainstream media. When pressed, the hip progressives who liked to pal around with Don Imus gave him up like a bad habit. That won't happen to Rush. We owe him too much. And that brand of personal allegiance still means something in Red-State America.
Australia and The Netherlands to send more troops to Afghanistan. Contrary to the left-wing chorus, we are not acting unilaterally in the world. Though sometimes it may indeed be necessary to go it alone.
Details are emerging of a recent merger of a U.S. technology firm with a Chinese company that endangers U.S. defense technology. Story here from Bill Gertz of The Washington Times.

Unbridled capitalism has no moral compass: its creed is "Anything for a buck." Some regulations are needed, especially for anything that would endanger national security.
The Burmese democracy movement is being crushed by the bloody fist of the ruling junta this week. From Der Speigel online (in English). From The Times (UK) online. Gateway Pundit has this roundup, including links to video.

In a sinful world, talk alone accomplishes nothing. Only the credible threat of force or other unpleasant consequences dissuades evil governments. Just "being nice" to the bad guys of the world will not turn them into nice guys. Niebuhr was right.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Hello 1814 and 1861. Chattanooga is the site of this year's Secessionist Convention, a gathering of groups and individuals who wish to see their state and region secede from the United States. Noteworthy is the coming together of the modern New England secessionist movement, centered in Vermont, with the Southern secessionist movement, exemplified by the League of the South. Other secessionists are expected from Hawaii, Alaska, and Texas. Story here. Link from Drudge.
The complaint that links these groups together--Yankee liberals and Neo-Confederates--is that the Federal government has grown overbearingly strong in relation to the states.

While secessionist movements may be fringe groups at present, we need to listen to them, because they do have a point. For the last 100 years the Federal government has gained power at the expense of the states. Today that power is exercised especially through money. The Feds collect taxes that are then given back to the states and localities through grants--that have strings attached. What would it be like to cut Federal taxes by the amounts that flow through the grant process, including administrative costs, and let the states decide to tax or not to make up the difference?
Category: Same-Sex Marriage
Posted by: an okie gardener
This week our basic cable service is carrying a few days of Showtime to entice us to add this premium cable service. I have taken the opportunity to watch a few episodes of Penn and Teller's show B*LLSH*T (the show does not use asterisks). Much of the time the stage magicians put on a great show skewering some aspect of modern life or thought, such as a black academic at a university ranting about institutional racism at the school. Response "That's B*llsh*t!"

The other evening, though, they did a segment attacking right wing Christians, Protestant and Roman Catholic, who would limit marriage to a man and a woman. Penn and Teller brought out a couple of academics from obscure corners of academia to pontificate that there has never been a stable definition of marriage in human history. Now that is B*LLSH*T.

While there have been differences such as whether a man may have one wife or many, and whether concubines are allowed on the side, or whether divorce is permissible and if so under what circumstances, these academics did not cite a single example of a society recognizing marriage between two members of the same sex in past history.

Come on Penn and Teller, you are smart guys. Don't let your ideological agenda cause you to spew your own B*llsh*t.
2 October 2007

"Ahmadinejad controls no legions."

"The Iranian President's words had no practical, only symbolic, global import. He has very little real power in Iran, none over foreign policy or the nuclear program."
~~Joe Klein

Mostly, I read TIME Magazine for the laughs and fodder for the blog.

One of my favorite foils is Joe Klein, who is mostly a harmless kook.

To pass the time, I enjoy breaking down his blustering essays in search of logical fallacies and contradictions. It is sort of an intellectual version of "Where's Waldo." And, of course, Waldo is everywhere.

For your review, an extended piece in that vein from April here.

Since that particular rage against the machine, Klein has pronounced Mitt Romney a superficial phoney. Not long after that he praised John Edwards as a fellow with big ideas not afraid to laugh at himself. Somewhere along the way Klein asserted that bloggers were ruining the country. All this political stuff should be left to the pros (like Joe Klein). He has proclaimed Iraq a disaster for years--and then recently he went to Iraq during a time of widespread grudging optimism and found--drum roll, please--Iraq was a disaster. Most recently, he loved Hillary Care.

As I have said before, the crazy thing is that this guy made a good living for years posing as a marquee political reporter and dispassionate wiseman concerning national politics.

This Week in TIME ?

"Inflating a Little Man. The neoconservatives want you to think Ahmadinejad is another Hitler. That's dishonest, and plumps for war."

Full TIME article here.

Klein declares that Ahmadinejad (and presumably Iran) presents "no existential threat to the United States."

Why do so many misguided Americans think he is important?

Easy. The neoconservatives have created another boogey man, Klein reveals, by "taking him literally." That is, dastardly neocons like Norman Podhoretz (and other neocons like Mort Zuckerman) falsely claim that Ahmadinejad's myriad scary threats ought to be addressed as serious statements of intent. Klein calls foul: "This is incendiary foolishness." Klein knows better.

An aside: Klein assumes that if Bush said it, the neocons must have thought it, and if the neocons thought it, it must be wrong.

While that certainly works sometimes, it is a shaky assumption upon which to base your entire worldview.

Notwithstanding, I agree with Klein, at least in part. We have a tendency to exagerate the institutional power of the Iranian president when it suits our purposes. On the other hand, Ahmadinejad is the elected leader of Iran, he is the spokesperson for the ruling Mullahs, and, most importantly, no one really knows for sure how crucial his role will be in the future of Iran.

The two major themes from Klein:

1. Ahmadinejad is no Hitler. We are "inflating a little man."

2. He advises us to laugh him off. Laughter is our most powerful defense against the threat of Iran and its leader. Klein: "But to be found ridiculous? How devastating. How delightfully Western."

Ironically, Klein's certainty that Ahmadinejad is too dimunitive and ridiculous to be threatening is in itself laughable. Even as Klein bemoans the comparison to Hitler, his position invites another similarity: the reluctance of the West to accept that the "Little Corporal," in the early stages of his ascendancy, competing for power in a chaotic and depressed Germany half a world away, could possibly pose a "an existential threat to the United States."

As for laughter being the best medicine, I am not persuaded. Charlie Chaplin got some good ones in on the "Great Dictator," but Patton, Ike and Bradley ultimately proved more convincing.
Category: Courts
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
1 October 2007

This morning, in celebration of the First Monday in October, traditional opening day of the Supreme Court season, C-SPAN's Washington Journal featured a discussion of the Court's docket with LA Times court reporter, David Savage.

For the most part, Mr. Savage proved perfectly pleasant and informative.

A few moments, however, proved worthy of a raised eyebrow:

1. He echoed the increasingly ubiquitous praise of Justice John Paul Stevens. This will be a theme of the session. I will have more on this phenomenon coming soon.

2. He also reflected the obligatory dismissiveness of Clarence Thomas. Savage generously called his personal story "heartwarming," but he wondered why he is still so angry over the events of 1991. Savage also observed that Thomas often takes on a "woe is me" attitude, intent on dwelling on that trying period in his life.

Two humorous moments:

In response to a clip from 60 Minutes in which Thomas railed against political leaders in the black community intolerant of dissenting opinions, Savage seemed absolutely perplexed that there might be a party line for African Americans or a so-called black gospel.

Savage: "I am not at all sure what he is talking about."

The Times reporter went on: "He seems to be saying that people dislike him for being an independent thinker. I don't know anybody who is against independent thinking."

I think Savage means I don't know anyone who is against independent thinking as long as they think independently along the same lines as I do.

That is, I am wondering how many fellows in the LA Times newsroom are big supporters of the war in Iraq--or consider Ronald Reagan to be the best president of their lifetime.

One other funny thing:

Asked about this upcoming memoir that Thomas is promoting, Savage again went blank, racking his brain for anything remotely like this in the history of the court and then finally pronouncing the memoir completely unprecedented.

A few callers later Savage was forced into admitting that the Sandra Day O'Connor memoir was somewhat similar to Thomas's memoir--but merely in the sense that it too was a memoir.
Sunday Night was Episode Five of The War, the Ken Burns documentary on WWII: "FUBAR."

If you don't know FUBAR, you can consult this wiki entry.

A couple of themes keep jumping out at me in The War.

1. War is Hell. Innocents die. Good men do bad things. Hearts get broken. Families Grieve. Normal life as we know it stops. War is Hell.

2. FUBAR. SNAFU. TARFU. Things go wrong in war. Communication is dreadful and inevitably a beat or two behind the moment of truth. Very few people seem to know what is really going on, and they are unable to communicate with the ones who need to know the most. Oftentimes, the least confused (rather than the most organized) side prevails. Things go wrong in war.

3. War is especially hard for a democracy. We the people are impatient, often unforgiving, and easily stampeded. FDR understood well that oftentimes military necessity must conform to political reality. He was a great war president in his ability to entreat, inspire, persuade, and balance.

Fighting a War in a Democracy.

An FDR would be nice--but we also need more Ernie Pyles.

Pyle was an embedded reporter, who absorbed the souls of the men about whom he wrote, relaying their lives, everyday heroism and desires to eager consumers of news back home. War correspondents during WWII represented the fighting men and the national cause. Regardless of whether this support for national objectives violated journalistic ethics or compromised objective reporting, newsmen invested in American victory proved beneficial to the Allied cause.

Of course, this sense that we were all on the same side came crashing down during the Vietnam Era when a new generation of reporters, publishers, and editors embraced a much more nuanced sense of the public interest. In the old days, the press often ignored the ugly and emphasized the heroic. The post-Vietnam media covers the myriad mistakes and attrocities of war and mostly ignores the nobility of the cause and the warriors.

An Ernie Pyle archive via the Indiana University School of Journalism here.

Today we have a few Michael Yons and Bill Roggios--but they are by necessity completely outside of the mainstream media. As Katie Couric intimated a few days ago--without much fanfare or reaction--picking sides in a war is just not good reporting.

Is the MSM responsible for our misfortunes in Iraq? Of course not. On the other hand, the mainstream media presents serious obstacles to prosecuting a successful war, which the Bush administration struggles mightily to navigate.

Whose fault is that? Where does the buck stop?

This is a fair question.

Ultimately, it is the President's job to overcome minefields and pitfalls and win wars. Just win baby.

Does democracy present all kinds of extra disadvantages for a war-time leader? Sure. This was true for FDR and his age as well--although we all admit much has changed since then. No matter, it is far too pessimistic to insist that these disadvantages prevent the USA from winning a modern war. Such a pronouncement is akin to assuming an especially brilliant person, likely to be distracted by his curious mind, is at a disadvantage in college. While the preceding statement rings true on its face, the advantage of a brilliant and curious mind is a tremendous plus in higher learning that ought to overwhelm the lesser problem of distraction.

Our freedom of the press is an obstacle (more so now than then, even more so when brandished by cynics happily uninvested in victory). No matter, the power of a free society dwarfs the drawbacks.

One obvious answer: We are desperately in need of leadership adept at marshaling our advantages to overcome our disadvantages.

We could learn a lot from The War in that regard.